A team of American and French scientists have just documented the fact that there are a lot of bacteria in cigarettes and that the bacterial population includes some human pathogens. They don’t actually know if this leads to human disease- after all, these things are BURNED!. Still it raises interesting issues. But at least the tobacco is not GMO!
OK, I am indulging in some irony here. If you have shared my experience of having a wonderful dinner in Paris compromised by smoking neighbors at the closely-spaced tables you can relate. European colonizers might have devastated native American peoples through disease and guns 500 years ago, but the original “Americans” got a little pay-back by introducing the Europeans to an addictive and carcinogenic product they had never known.
I have always found it fascinating that Europeans have mainly avoided GMO crops based on fears of theoretical problems that have not materialized over more than a decade of GMO commercialization, all the while allowing an extremely well-documented source of health problems to be widely used and imposed on non-smokers. The “precautionary principle” that prevails in Europe does not seem to protect them from “documented risks”, only from “imagined risks”. This new data on cigarettes should trigger precautionary responses that would say that all tobacco products should be banned until this bacterial risk can be assessed. I’m guessing that won’t happen.
It is not clear that pathogenic bacteria on the tobacco in cigarettes actually causes disease, but if they did there would be a “solution.” The tobacco could be irradiated the way that we irradiate outdoor dried spices that go into processed foods (think about it, you don’t want spices dried outside and exposed to bacteria inoculating your potato salad or pate…). That is not likely to happen either.
Well, in any case, if this new finding gets more Europeans to stop smoking, all the better. Their societies are now so far below the reproductive “replacement rate” they certainly don’t need any additional force for population reduction.
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Image of French woman smoking from saneboy